Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jenny's Library Books Mid-January

I had to post this after our podcast episode about reading goals for 2015 went live, otherwise this pile would have not exactly made sense.  But you can see my reading goals in this pile!  Doesn't January always start out that way, with great commitment to our goals?  Reading goals are no different (although I don't get tired of reading the way I get tired of, say, trying to not eat sugar.)

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash
The Absolutist by John Boyne

The top three books are not related to New Guinea! Ferrante is an author I wanted to read so much she's on my goals list for the year. Ron Rash is the January selection for the On the Southern Literary Trail group in Goodreads, and I'm always trying to read more southern literature. The Boyne is for my in-person book club and possibly the first book I've read set in World War I.  I've started it already so I can pass it on to another book clubber before we meet, because our town only has two copies total.

Savage Harvest: by Carl Hoffman
The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond
Michael Rockefeller: New Guinea Photographs, 1961
Gardens of War: Life and Death in the New Guinea Stone Age by Robert Gardner and Karl G. Heider
The Asmat of New Guinea by Michael Clark Rockefeller

The rest of the books are for my month of reading in and about New Guinea, both sides.  Three books have to do with Rockefeller - the newer book, Savage Harvest, is about Michael Rockefeller's death in New Guinea.  He died there but two of the other books in the pile are his photos and his journals, so clearly some items survived! Gardens of War is meant to read alongside another book I need to request from interlibrary loan, and the Jared Diamond will be quite an undertaking. I've always meant to read a book by him, and this one happens to be about the Danu people in New Guinea. Convenient!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reading Envy Podcast Episode 020: Goals!

Scott and Jenny gather by the fire in the Reading Envy Pub to discuss our reading goals for 2015.  It is January, we are excited about what is coming up on our reading lists, and we want to know about your reading goals as well.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy Episode 20

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner

Or subscribe via iTunes by clicking: Subscribe

Books we read recently, an excerpt:

Harbinger (Star Trek, Vanguard #1) by David Mack
Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak

Reading Goals for 2015:

  1. World Literature - Southeast Asia, Oceania, Australia - read a bunch of books!
  2. Mighty Tomes - Dhalgren, and maybe a return to War and Peace
  3. Spy novels and memoirs. More spies. (Any recommendations?)
  4. Authors in translation - Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knaussgard
  5. Read the books from authors I might meet.


  1. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
  2. The Martian by Andy Weir
  3. Hyperion / Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
  4. Don Quixote by Cervantes
  5. Inferno by Dante
  6. The Habit of Being by Flannery O'Connor
  7. Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal (if it gets released this year)
  8. A year with Gene Wolfe:
    JAN - The Shadow of the Torturer (1980)
    FEB - The Claw of the Conciliator (1981)
    MAR - The Sword of the Lictor (1982)
    APR - The Citadel of the Autarch (1983)
    MAY - The Urth of the New Sun (1987)
    JUN - Nightside the Long Sun (1993)
    JUL - Lake of the Long Sun (1994)
    AUG - Caldé of the Long Sun (1994)
    SEP - Exodus From the Long Sun (1996)
    OCT - On Blue's Waters (1999)
    NOV - In Green's Jungles (2000)
    DEC - Return to the Whorl (2001)

Stalk us online:
Jenny at GoodReads
Scott at GoodReads
Jenny on Twitter
Scott on Twitter
Scott on his blog

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Books Read in 2014 - the numbers

Total books read - 242
Total pages read - 63,963 (uncertain how audiobooks are counted)

eBook format - 56 (23%)
audiobook - 28 (12%)

Review copies, in print, eBook, or audiobook - 55 (23%)
Award nominees - 24 (9%) - Booker, Hugo, Nebula, Baileys, National Book Award - this number is lower than previous years

Creative non-fiction - 14 (6%) - all because I took that class!
Graphic novels - 5 (2%)
Poetry - 29 (12%) - thank you National Poetry Month!
Post-apocalyptic or dystopian - 20 (8%)
Science fiction or fantasy - 39 (16%) - down almost 10% from last year
Short stories - 18 (7%)

Southern lit - 25 (10%) - tracking because I want to read more Southern lit!

Author gender
Male - 114
Female - 116
Compilation/varied - 11

Jenny's Best of 2014 - the full list of five-starred books

I have taken the books I rated five stars in 2014 and categorized them below. Scott and I talked about some of this list already in our wrap-up podcast episode, but I wanted to include it in its entirety. I'm not even going to try to come up with a top ten since I rated over 40 books 5 stars! I've also added another five-star book to the list since we recorded.


Fiction - non-speculative ("literary," short stories, world lit)
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den Berg
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B. J. Novak
Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Orfeo by Richard Powers
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor


Fiction - speculative (sci-fi, fantasy, horror, weird, dystopia)
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (Volume 8) edited by Jonathan Strahan
The End is Nigh edited by Hugh Howey and John Joseph Adams
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr.
Chimpanzee by Darin Bradley
The Future for Curious People Gregory Sherl
Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy, #1) by Jeff VanderMeer

There's a Box in the Garage You Can Beat With a Stick by Michael Teig
The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy
Fifteen Iraqi Poets
Modernist Women Poets: An Anthology
Blue Horses by Mary Oliver
The Open Door: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Years of "Poetry" Magazine
Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral

Non-fiction - business, informational, history
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon
A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power by Jimmy Carter
The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham

Non-fiction - essays, memoir, creative non-fiction, writing
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction
Rough Likeness: Essays by Lia Purpura
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard

Non-fiction - cookbooks

Heritage by Sean Brock
Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marisa McClellan

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Report on Reading Goals 2014

Here are my reading goals posted in January, and where I ended up with them!

  1. Flannery O'Connor - I binge-read her complete stories the last week of December, no regrets.  What a riot! It also feels good to focus more on Southern writers.  I actually started the year reading a book that is a fictionalized account of her relationship with another writer, Frances and Bernard.  Flannery bookended my year!
  2. Roger Zelazny - I read the first book of the Chronicles of Amber, Nine Princes in Amber.  I liked it! I brought Lord of Light with me when I visited my Mom as she had radiation treatments, but it didn't grab me at the time.  I have tracked down the remaining Chronicles and will read those eventually.  Really I wish I'd read them as a child!
  3. Samuel Delany - I didn't get very far in reading Delany, only finishing The Einstein Intersection along with the Sword and Laser Book Club.  I have purchased several more - Babel-17 and Dhalgren, which will be the group read for the Misfit Readers in January 2015.  Still going to happen!
  4. Phillip Roth - I definitely didn't get as far as I thought I would with Roth.  I was actually hampered by his prolific output - there are some books with more acclaim than others but I wasn't necessarily starting with those.  I did get through American Pastoral, arguably one of his best, and Deception because it was in my house.  I have two more of his at home and three from the library, so a Roth readalong may continue.
  5. M. John Harrison - Loved the short story I read of his, abandoned the novel.  But at least I can say I tried.
  6. Rumi - I didn't get to him!
  1. Turkey - I did read three more from Turkey.
  2. Iran/Persia - One. Not a lot. So much for challenges.
  3. Iraq - One. Just poetry. Ha.
  4. Iceland - I got through eight books and abandoned two more.  I made some Icelandic dishes and listened to Icelandic music, but never really studied the language like I thought I might.
  5. Africa - I read an entire biography of Africa as well as books from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, and Mozambique.  Still have miles to go.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reading Envy Podcast Episode 019: Dump Truck Poetry

For Episode 019, some past guests as well as some other readers contribute their favorite books from 2014.  Thanks to everyone who participated!

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy Episode 19

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner

Or subscribe via iTunes by clicking: Subscribe

Books mentioned:

Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence
Hotel Savoy by Joseph Roth
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
The Broken Road: Travels from Bulgaria to Mount Athos by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Builder Goose by Boni Ashburn
The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
The Martian by Andy Weir
Inversions by Iain M. Banks
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee
The Lost Salt Gift of Blood by Alistair MacLeod
Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

Also mentioned:
Science Fiction Book Review Podcast
SFF Audio Podcast

Stalk us online:
Jenny at GoodReads
Scott at GoodReads
Jenny on Twitter
Scott on Twitter
Scott on his blog

Monday, December 29, 2014

Around the World in 52 Books in 2014

There are roughly 196 countries in the world, depending on how and when you count.  In 2012, a group of us in GoodReads started a challenge called Around the World in 52 Books.  In that year, I read 64 books from 48 countries.  Last year I focused far more on Turkey, and read 20 books from and about that country alone. I read 69 books for the Around the World challenge last year, and checked a few more unread countries off the list. 

This year I read another 52 books set outside the United States, with 15 countries I hadn't yet tackled.  The highlight for me was the eight I read from and about Iceland, the focus of The World's Literature group.  I also really enjoyed The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne, that takes place in a near future Ethiopia and India. 

Here is my list! The asterisks indicate countries new to my around the world reading this year. 

Africa, alphabetically by country

First of all, all of Africa
Africa: A Biography of the Continent by John Reader

The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne (fantasy novel)

Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean by Hilary Liftin

The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun

The Tuner of Silences by Mia Couto

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

Asia and the Middle East, including Turkey

The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

سووشون Suvashun

Fifteen Iraqi Poets

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

Korea, South* (I had read North Korea previously)
Another Man's City by Choi In-ho

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamad

Summer's End by Adalet Ağaoğlu
There Was and There Was Not: A Journey through Hate and Possibility in Turkey, Armenia, and Beyond by Meline Toumani
Topkapi Palace: Milestones in Ottoman History

Americans and Caribbean, from North to South

Walking Into the Night by Olaf Olafsson
Icelandic Poems and Stories ed. Richard Beck
Iceland's Bell by Halldor Laxness
Icelanders in the Viking Age: The People of the Sagas by William R. Short
Children in Reindeer Woods by Kristín Ómarsdóttir
The Blue Fox by Sjon
The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Continental Drift by Russell Banks

Fake Caribbean
The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson

The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba by Julia Cooke

Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the People's Temple by Deborah Layton


The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

The People in the Trees

Europe, alphabetically

There Was and There Was Not: A Journey through Hate and Possibility in Turkey, Armenia, and Beyond by Meline Toumani

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Anne-Marie O'Connor

Chechynya, Russia
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, reread

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind

The Undertaking by Audrey McGee

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
A History of Loneliness by John Boyne
In the Woods by Tana French
A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride

La Cucina: A Novel of Rapture by Lily Prior

The Letters of a Portuguese Nun

Ballerina, Ballerina by Marko Sosič

The Infatuations by Javier Marías
The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti

UK - including Scotland and Wales
Burning Down George Orwell's House by Andrew Ervin
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell 

The list of countries still to tackle seems daunting, but I still have many unread books on some shelves at home.  The World's Literature group will be shifting its focus to Oceania and Australia so I expect to read a bit in that area! I'd like to get back to baking from the region I'm reading in as well.